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GM's Pontiac G5 Contest Needs a Boost

On the theme of “major corporations missing the boat”: – I received an email promotion for a “GM Canada”: contest this morning that is a terrific example. The “email itself”: wasn’t bad once I downloaded the images but it was all downhill from there.
The email encouraged me to “Feel Energized” by entering to win a Pontiac G5. Heck, I’m as happy to win a new car as the next guy (or gal) but when I clicked through to the contest site I was treated to three distinct flash movies before I even had the chance to enter:
* First, a “feel energized” presentation that encouraged me to use my mouse, keyboard and speakers to “feel energized” but doing those things had no effect on the movie, just distracted me from what was on my screen. I wasn’t energized – I was bored and frustrated.
* Next I had the opportunity to “build my G5”. The process was cool once I figured out the somewhat obscure interface but I don’t know what it had to do with the contest – I don’t think that’s the G5 I’ll win. If it is, that wasn’t made clear.
* After I’d built my G5 I was taken to a photo gallery of G5 images that had nothing to do with the car I had just finished building.
* FINALLY I was taken to the contest entry page. The entry page required me to scroll down one full screen before I could find the actual form. And then, to add insult to injury, there was no opt-in anywhere. I was very courteously asked what language I’d prefer to receive further communications in, but not given the option to decline those communications. There was a line buried in the brief privacy statement at the bottom of the form stating that I could change my preferences simply by letting GM know – but no instructions on how I might do that and no, the phrase “let us know” doesn’t link to anything.

Frankly, if I hadn’t sniffed a great blog topic unfolding, I’d have abandoned the entry process at the first step. This is a perfect example of a great idea gone awry and a major brand skipping best practises.
The five major mistakes:
# The HTML email is unreadable with images turned off
# The flash movie has an obscure interface that leaves you confused about what to do next
# You have to sit through three distinct flash presentations before you even make it to the entry form.
# On the entry form you’re actually presented with navigation options to leave the page before you see the form itself.
# The entry form doesn’t include a clear opt-in or permission flag.
GM could easily improve the entire process (and response) by making the form easily and obviously accessible from “the landing page of the microsite,”: allowing visitors to skip the advertising and get on with the business of entering. They should either tie “build your G5” into the entry process or make it a completely optional activity. And, above all else, they MUST improve the permission statements and opt-in / opt-out language on the entry form. It took me a full 10 minutes to get through the process and enter the contest (yes I timed it and yes, I do need to get out more!). Too long for busy people who should be working. Fortunately for me, I can call this kind of activity competitive (ahem) research.
On the upside, the copywriting on the text preview screen in Outlook was fantastic. It was the most energizing aspect of the entire campaign!


  1. Tamera Kremer
    Tamera Kremer September 20, 2006

    Great post Paula and right on point. I’ve been quite disappointed recently in the interactive campaigns GM has released (disclosure, I worked on the GM acct 3 years ago). The website has all the same issues you reference above so it appears the issue isn’t a one-off but institutional to how they engage on the web.
    Hopefully best practices & strategies will prevail and GM will take the needs of the consumer in mind first and the branding/ product push second.

  2. Trevor Stafford
    Trevor Stafford September 22, 2006

    Tamera is right on point. I also get regular GM e-mail and to be honest the quality is usually so poor and the frequency so heavy that I delete them without an open. Frankly, GM writes ‘at’ you instead of ‘to’ you and that bothers me.
    You want me to do what? Go where? For WHAT? Tell me and show me something interesting, don’t just push cars at me.

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